Psychological barrier to weight loss

So you’ve got your exercise program and diet sorted, the weight should just drop off now… right?

Not necessarily! Weight loss isn’t all just about physical change, but about psychological change too.

If you find yourself emotionally eating, or held back by limiting beliefs about your diet and willpower, then you might want to read this before embarking on your weight-loss journey.

How can you overcome mental road blocks? Let’s dig in to some of the most common psychological barriers when it comes to dieting and weight loss.

Emotional Eating:

It’s not uncommon for people to reach for comfort foods in times of stress or other negative emotions. These are foods that are typically high in sugar and fat, such as ice cream, chocolate and fast food. No one comfort eats lettuce!

Emotional eating has been linked with regain of weight post-dieting, due to the effect that stress has on self-control. It undermines a person’s ability to regulate their food intake and can trigger larger amounts of food to be consumed than usual. This response however, generally doesn’t solve the issue that triggered the eating in the first place and can even compound stress by adding in feelings of anxiety or guilt around the eating behaviour.

How to overcome emotional eating:

Get to the bottom of your emotions, work out why you feel a certain way, and whether there’s anything you can do about it to help alleviate the stressors. If you can’t solve the root cause of the problem, then work out different ways to manage the stress or negative feelings.

Write down a list of alternative activities for dealing with the stress. This could include things as taking a walk, journaling, meditating or calling a friend to talk it through. Keeping a food diary can be really beneficial to reflect on your food choices and why you’ve eaten something.

Limiting beliefs about dieting:

If you’ve fallen off the bandwagon before, this can reinforce your belief that you’ll fail again or that you can’t lose weight.  Listen to your self-talk when you’re approaching a new weight loss goal and try to pay attention to whether it’s positive, or negative. If you constantly tell yourself it’s too hard or you’ll hate the diet, you’re more likely to believe it and thrown the towel in when the going gets tough instead of sticking it out.

Change your mindset:

List all the reasons that you WILL be successful this time. Focus on the positives!

Perhaps you’ve learnt more about dieting, or you’ve got a better plan that you feel confident following.

We have dietitian designed meal plans and shopping lists to improve your confidence when going for a weight-loss goal . Someone’s done the hard work for you already, you just have to stick to it!

Turn set-backs into learning experiences

You either win, or you learn something. Reflect on your successes of the week but also reflect on what could be improved. If you felt that certain behaviours impacted you achieving your goals, what can you do about it next time?

For example, if you ate too much birthday cake in the office for a coworkers birthday, maybe next celebration you could bring along a fresh fruit platter for everyone to enjoy? This is a win for everyone!

Perhaps you felt you overate when you went out for dinner one night this week. Next time you could look in advance at the menu and make conscious choices to swap the chips for a side of vegetables, and choose a lower-calorie drink such as soda water with lime.

For more information on healthy weight loss and how to set a realistic weight loss goal, see our blog here .

You know yourself the best of anyone. Start working in your own favour instead of against yourself and say goodbye to self-sabotaging your diet!


Domino Puttick

Accredited Practising Dietitian


October 29, 2020